Karma Saving the Rainforest
By Karma Imagine Casey
Hello fellow Quepolandia readers! It's Karma Casey, the Kids Saving the Rainforest spokeskid! If you haven’t heard of KSTR, it’s a wonderful wildlife rescue and sanctuary non-profit right here in Quepos! They also plant trees and put up wildlife bridges in the area. For the last two years, I have been writing an article each month for Quepolandia, telling you all about KSTR and how to help the planet! This month's article is a little bit different than the rest. This is my farewell article, so you won’t be reading my byline at the top of the page anymore!
Well, let's start from the beginning of my story. I was an eight year old girl who loved animals and wanted to help them, but I was too young to really help them where I lived. I was just reading and researching about the majestic sloth (one of my favorite animals) when I saw the story about Jeannine and Aislin, the two nine year old girls who originally started Kids Saving the Rainforest.
The girls lived in Manuel Antonio, and they could see that the rainforest was beginning to be destroyed. They began by painting rocks and selling other arts and crafts. With the money they raised, they would buy trees to plant. Kids Saving the Rainforest grew and grew, eventually getting permission from the Costa Rican government to open a wildlife sanctuary and veterinary clinic. It has been open for about twenty years now. Wow! That's a long time!
I was so inspired by this story, that I decided to reach out to the amazing Jennifer Rice, the president of Kids Saving the Rainforest. I told her how it was my dream to come and help all the animals there.
I decided to raise money for Kids Saving the Rainforest. So I painted rocks and piggy banks, made inspirational quotes, and sold my toys. I donated the money to them. You guys can can make crafts to sell, or just donate at kstr.org! Me and Jennifer talked for a while, until me and my Mama heard Kids Saving the Rainforest needed a new Volunteer Coordinator! We made a very bold decision and moved to Costa Rica to dedicate our lives to helping KSTR. I arrived when I was nine years old, just like Janine and Aislin when they started the organization!
We spent an amazing two years here, giving tours, helping animals, and inspiring others to respect wildlife. I helped pick leaves for sloths, made enrichments to place in the homes of the sanctuary animals to make their lives better, planted trees, and so much more! I wrote these articles, went to the national park to talk with people about not feeding wildlife, and got to know some truly amazing and wildly wonderful people!
It's amazing here, but sadly I am moving back to the United States. If you are reading this, I am already in the US. I have learned so very much during my two years here, and become so inspired! Kids Saving the Rainforest has inspired so many people over the years, not just me. I am so happy that you got to read my articles. I hope you learned a lot. I know I did!
I learned so many things at Kids Saving the Rainforest, from respecting wildlife, pooping sloths, animal diets, and how I can work hard and grow up to become a biologist or a veterinarian and help even more animals! I also learned things like writing these articles for you all, public speaking, and I have made so many friends, and learned so many life lessons.
Even though I am moving back to the United States, I will still be in touch with Kids Saving the Rainforest, and help the planet. If you would like to contact me, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Here are a few things I learned in my time here that I think you should know.
Even though I'm not going to be writing the articles anymore, the new volunteer coordinator at KSTR will be taking over for now. He also does the radio shows in the Marina outside of Quepos! He is a very knowledgeable biologist! I bet he has a bunch of good stories for you. If you want to donate, volunteer, or look at some animal pictures go to kstr.org!
A big thanks to all the people who help to save the planet. Does that sound anything like you? If not, you can start now! It's not that hard. Don't litter, plant trees, respect the wildlife and much much more. Well I hope you enjoyed this article. I will miss you guys so much. I hope I inspired you at least a little bit.
Remember, if you find injured orphaned wildlife, send a WhatsApp message to the KSTR veterinary clinic team at 88-ANIMAL, and they’ll come to the rescue. Farewell!
Gradually, he has grown more alert to his surroundings and more mobile, however, due to his injuries, he doesn't use his right hand and spins in a circle when he tries to move. The brain damage that causes behaviors such as these takes a while to heal, but his improvement so far gives us hope that he will eventually make a full recovery. The clinic staff names all the animals who come in, and we decided to name him Chicky, the name of a certain type of Costa Rican cookie that has been all the rage at Kids Saving the Rainforest recently.
I also went to Manuel Antonio National Park this week with a group from Kids Saving the Rainforest. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll put the highlights below! Thanks for tuning in!
Greetings from the rainforest! This week, I'll be talking about porcupines; more specifically, the Mexican hairy dwarf porcupine! When I first came to Costa Rica, I was surprised that there were porcupines endemic, or native, to this area. I'd only known about the North American porcupine, which is only found as far south as northern Mexico. I'm sure you've seen photos of this species, with their long fur and quills. The Mexican hairy dwarf porcupine is found from Mexico to Panama, and looks quite different than its northern relative. About four and a half pounds as an adult, they're covered in short brown fur with patches of yellow quills throughout their body that are most concentrated around their face. As a mostly arboreal species, they have a long, prehensile, naked tail that aids them when climbing through trees. Many rainforest mammals have prehensile tails, including porcupines, opossums, kinkajous, and several species of monkey. This is an interesting example of convergent evolution, a word used in biology to describe when animals from different lineages evolve similar features. One example of this is the evolution of flight in both birds and bats: the ancestor of birds and bats couldn't fly, yet modern day species of both lineages have evolved flight to access food and avoid predators. In the rainforest, the thick canopy makes arboreal locomotion the easiest way to take advantage of the fruit, insects, and prey found in the tree tops, and it also allows animals to avoid large terrestrial predators. Moving through branches and trees is much easier if your tail can grasp branches and assist in climbing. Therefore, many rainforest animals in different families, including primates, rodents, carnivores, and marsupials, have evolved a similar tail.
There is currently one porcupine at Kids Saving the Rainforest named Patrick. He was found near a hotel, and after a search of the area failed to find his mother, he was brought to Kids Saving the Rainforest and raised in the nursery. He has since been moved into rehabilitation so that he can learn skills to survive in the wild and to undo his imprinting. Imprinting is a common problem with animals from the pet trade and those raised in nurseries, and it refers to unnatural dependency on and desire to be around humans. If you release an imprinted animal into the wild, they will seek out human companionship as soon as possible, which could lead to them getting recaptured for a pet, injured, or even killed. The methods used to raise and rehab animals try to avoid imprinting, but it is sometimes inevitable that they become too used to humans through their frequent interactions necessary to provide for them the best care possible. This happens often in species that are susceptible to imprinting such as porcupines, and Patrick has had a problem with attention-seeking behaviors. Imprinted animals go through an extensive rehabilitation process where their contact with people is restricted to allow their natural wild instincts, including a fear of humans, to return. Therefore, when Patrick was moved into rehabilitation, he was placed into a cage inside boot camp, so that he would have as little contact with humans as possible. When I arrived, Patrick would come out of his nest box as soon as he heard us approaching his cage. He would frantically climb on the tree limbs and sides of the cage, trying to climb onto you as you changed his food and water. Although every instinct told me to hold him and give him attention, I knew that it was in his best interest to dislike and fear humans. Additionally, a porcupine is not exactly the type of animal that you want crawling over you and cuddling up with you!
In order to undo his imprinting, we would give a harmless but unpleasant deterrent when he approached and reached out to climb onto us. These include squirting water in his face, blowing in his face, or making a sudden sound like finger snaps or shushing. As bad as I felt about doing this, Patrick ensured that I felt even worse by climbing to a corner of the cage and whining to himself after he was chased off. Sometimes, doing what's best for the animals is unpleasant for both you and the animal in the short term, but it will ultimately ensure that they can live a life without cages in the wild.
Patrick has improved a lot recently, but he is still showing behaviors that indicated he is imprinted. To help with this and to allow him to learn more survival skills before being fully released, the clinic staff decided to release him from his smaller cage into the main boot camp area so that he would have a larger terrain to explore. Since porcupines are nocturnal, we released him in the late afternoon, closer to the start of his "day". We woke him up by tapping gently on his nesting box, then opening the door of his cage so he could walk out into boot camp. Hesitant at first, he climbed on top of the open door and spent a while looking around. Eventually, he climbed down and trotted out of his cage. As we expected, he immediately made his way to the three of us standing close by, determined to get the cuddles he so desperately wants. We spent a couple of minutes walking away from him (baby porcupines are thankfully not very fast!) until he got distracted by the sights and smells of the forest around him and ambled off into the bushes. Since then, we've seen him several times when feeding the sloths, and have always had to quickly walk away to avoid prickly porcupine cuddles. He still has a way to go before he is able to be released, but we were all very happy that he completed the next step towards freedom.
Miller, M. 2009. "Sphiggurus mexicanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed October 02, 2019 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Sphiggurus_mexicanus/
Electrocuted howler monkey – September 7
Kids Saving The Rainforest received a call earlier this week of an electrocuted howler monkey in the Villa Lirio area. A KSTR ambulance responded but the howler had left prior to our arrival. We searched the area and were unable to locate it. The neighbor who called (Inigo) was concerned about the electrocutions and said they happen weekly in the area. Inigo said he wanted to sponsor a wildlife bridge and was put in contact with Jennifer at KSTR.
The power company ICE was contacted the same day.
The following day KSTR received another call from Inigo of a second electrocuted howler monkey at the same spot. Our ambulance arrived to find ICE employees on scene installing the wildlife bridge. The second adult howler was on the ground in front of Canyon Verde. As our ambulance driver neared the howler with a kennel and other equipment, the howler climbed up the fence near where it was laying on the ground. An ICE employee lowered a tree branch and the howler quickly jumped into the tree. It appeared to be strong again as it jumped from tree to tree.
Both of these monkeys were electrocuted by the 110v lines which delivered a lesser shock than the higher powered lines. It is believed they were both stunned from the falls and were possibly in shock from a combination of the shocks and falls.
Inigo continues to be very involved with KSTR and we are looking at installing more wildlife bridges in the area. This area has some power lines that are not insulated and continue to be a danger to the wildlife. Thank you Inigo for bringing this big problem to our attention and ICE for their quick response. KSTR will continue to be vigilant in the Villa Lirio area.
Daisy The Duck – September 7
Little Daisy, the black-bellied whistling duck, came in at just 23 grams, after being found alone away from her family.
She was growing up really fast and doing well, but she needed to be with other ducks, so she could have the best chance for a proper rehabilitation and release...so now she has been moved where she can socialize with other ducks!
We will miss her and wish her the best of ‘duck’!
ITV NEWS article – September 12
ITV News: Costa Rican children saving the planet one tree at a time.
Click here to view the article and video on their website
Associated Press Visit – September 13
The Associated Press (AP) came to visit Kids Saving the Rainforest.
Click here for a summary and video on Youtube
DW GLOBAL video – September 13
DW Global: Children saving the rainforest in Costa Rica
Click here to view the video on Facebook
Luna – September 14
Luna is getting to be a proper raccoon these days! She is still pretty clumsy & needs assistance with feeding & toileting for a little longer, but she is making great progress!
Photo credits: Lis Penhearow
Click here to view on Facebook
Bloomberg NEWS video - September 15
Bloomberg TicToc: Kids Plant 10,000 Trees
Click here to view the video on their website
UN ENVIRONMENT Press release - SEPTEMBER 20
Costa Rica named ‘UN Champion of the Earth’ for pioneering role in fighting climate change
Click here to view the article on their website
Rainforest 5k Run
Come and run with us. For every person who participates we will plant a tree.
Vengan a correr por el bosque. Por cada corredor q participe sembraremos un árbol.
Click here to view on Facebook
It's storming yet again here at Kids Saving the Rainforest, and I'm going to give a brief summary about what I've been up to at my internship. The biggest development is that I've started my research project which I'm very excited about. All interns have to carry out an independent project while here, and after I arrived, I was thinking about what to do for my project. As I walked around the sanctuary, I noticed that some of our animals in the sanctuary exhibit stereotypical behaviors, a common problem for captive wild animals. These behaviors occur when the environment around an animal isn't stimulating enough, and an animal's normal behaviors for foraging and exploring their environment turn into maladaptive behaviors such as pacing, biting their tail, and over grooming themselves. We're currently working on reducing the amount of these behaviors in the coatimundis, which are related to kinkajous and raccoons. As I walked along the sanctuary, I thought to myself that if the coatis are having these behaviors, then surely the kinkajous must have some problematic behaviors as well. However, since kinkajous are strictly nocturnal, there would be no way to tell if they are acting this way or not if we're only watching them during the day. I decided to make my project about looking into stereotypical behaviors in our kinkajous. I had no idea that my research project would be about kinkajous when I started this blog, but it looks like the blog name is fitting better than I expected!
Additionally, the vet clinic is training our capuchin monkeys to make vet clinic work easier on them, and zoo literature states that training can be a from of environmental enrichment. Environmental enrichments are solutions to stereotypical behaviors, giving animals something to engage their attention and challenge them so they don't become bored. In addition to training, this can also include putting animals' food in simple puzzles that they have to solve to get the food, or putting their food in places so that they must use their natural foraging abilities to get it. My research project is going to be monitoring the kinkajous with camera traps to determine if there are problematic stereotypical behaviors occurring, then assessing their behavior, designing enrichments, and coming up with a training plan to meet their needs. I'm looking forward to getting involved in this project, and I've already realized how difficult it is to study nocturnal species. When an animal is only active during the night, you either have to observe them during the night or find a way to monitor them with a camera, then study the footage later. There are drawbacks to both these methods, and so far I'm testing both of them to gather preliminary data.
Speaking of enrichments, one of the most important aspects of caring for captive animals is having an enclosure that simulates their natural environment. At Kids Saving the Rainforest, we fill cages with branches, ropes, and greenery. However, the fresh leaves in enclosures wilt after about a week, and when this happens we trek out into the jungle with machetes to cut down fresh palms and leaves for the cages. Forging through the jungle and hacking down giant leaves is difficult work, but the best part is when you get to design the arrangement of the greenery inside the cages and watch the animals explore their new environment.
One of the best parts of my week was the trip to Parque Nahomi in Quepos. It's a very small, local park that sits on top of a peninsula that juts into the sea. I'm always amazed at the little pockets of beauty I find everywhere in this country.
We went to Nahomi to collect the leaves of the beach almond tree for our sloths. Coincidentally, as we were collecting, we looked up and saw a wild two-toed sloth and her baby right above us! The little sloth was up and moving (it was around sunset, right when this nocturnal species begins to wake up), while its mom was snoozing in the tree. The mom calmly examined the humans watching her, then went back to resting while her baby climbed around the branches, periodically letting out a small squeal.
Are you familiar with the term ‘Rainforest’?
As a name suggests, it is a type of forest that gets a lot of rain. And, such forests are immensely important for our entire planet.
In simple words, these forests are known as ‘Rainforest’s’ because they receive tons of rainfall every year. Did your kid have an idea about this fascinating ecosystem? And, is he or she wondering to know how these forests affect the food that we consume? Well, there are lots of things that every individual need to know about Rainforests. Well, in this post, we are decided to list some incredible facts about Rainforests for kids. But, before knowing about these, you should be aware of some actual terms of these forests.
What Are Rainforests?
A rainforest is a type of forest that gets a high quantity of rains every year and its area is warm, wet, and woodland. According to optimistic studies, the forest gets more than 80 inches (approximately 2000 millimetres) of rain within a single year.
Most rainforests are located in Brazil, and some you can find in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia. According to Biologists, over half of all plant and animal species are found in the rainforest. The Experts of Pharmaceuticals says, more than ¼ of all medicines are an extract from these forests.
Types Of Rainforests:
There are only two main types of rainforests that are:
· Temperate Rainforests
· Tropical Rainforests
Well, these types of rainforests are located between the tropics and the polar circles of the Earth. You can found such forests in a couple of regions around the globe like western North America, south-eastern Australia and New Zealand.
You can find different types of animals at temperate rainforests like bears, grey wolves, Siberian tigers, snow leopards pumas (mountain lion), kangaroos and wombats.
Such types of rainforests are located in the tropics. You can found them in the specific areas that close to the equator such as Asia, Africa, Central America and the Pacific Islands.
There you can find animals such as jaguar, monkey, leopard, parrot, iguana, chimpanzee, gorilla, Indian cobra, and orangutan etc. If you want to track a high school GPA of your child, then visit calculator-online.net to utilize GPA calculator. You can monitor high school GPA within a couple of seconds with the ease of this tool.
Facts About Rainforests For Kids:
· The 4 square mile patch of rainforest are covered with 150 species of butterflies, 400 species of birds, 1500 flowering, and 750 species of trees
· The trees of tropical rainforests are amazingly covered with canopy as the rains falling can take maximum 10 minutes to reach the surface of the ground
· Except for Antarctica, rainforests are found around all the continents of the earth, because the environment of Antarctica is too cold
· There are more than 6 million square miles of the rainforest, but less than half of that found around the world because of deforestation. Studies found that, if this deforestation continues in the same way, then only 5-10 species will go lost within 10 years
· The IUFRO found that there are around 80% of the flowers which are found in the rainforests of Australia and aren’t found anywhere else throughout the globe
· Around the tropical rainforest, the insects found which create the majority of the living creatures
· According to Geographical studies, several tribes in Brazil still live in the rainforests, and these tribes don’t have any contact with the outside world. The people of these tribes are dependent on these forests to fulfil their daily needs
· The fascinating fact is that the tropical rainforest supply the bulk amounts of oxygen that we take in our daily lives
· According to optimistic research, rainforests are the legit source that maintains our entire provision of safe drinking water. We get 1/5th part of the freshwater through the tropical rainforests. The Amazon basin is the exact source!
· An expert says, there are around 70% of the plants found in Amazon rainforest that can assist in treating cancer. Additionally, the U.S. Cancer Institute declares that these plants are highly effective and utilized to treat the cancer
· The Rainforest of Amazon is too large; if this forest were a country, then studies show that this become the 9th largest country of the world
· There are migratory birds are live in the rainforest during winter, and these birds come back in summer and spring region
· The rainforests which are located in Europe have 570 species of butterfly, and the forest of Peru only has 1300 species of butterflies
· Studies found that there are some rainforests around the globe which gets over 100 inches of rainfall nearly every year
· In Tasmania rainforest, some pine trees are found that can live up to 2000 years
Layers of Rainforests:
There are four layers of rainforest mentioned below:
· Emergent Layer
· Canopy Layer
· Understory Layer
· Forest Floor
What Do People get From Rainforests?
There are ample of things that we get from the Rainforest that includes:
· Spices such as ginger, coconut, allspice, pepper, cinnamon, paprika, clove, and vanilla
How can you help the rainforest:
You can help the rainforest by choosing eco friendly products, lowering your meat intake, buying local organic produce, using products with out palm oil,and donating to charities like ours that work hard everyday to protect and take care of the rainforest and the animals that live in it.
To donate please click on this link.
Every amount helps.
We were picked up at the airport and driven to our destination, stopping for coffee and to see the crocodiles sunning themselves on the river banks. A wonderful beginning. We arrived at the Blue Banyan Inn, KSTR, animal rescue where we were welcomed by Mackenzie, one of the amazing staff, who showed us to our cottage (very cute, comfortable beds, toilet, shower). He then showed us around the grounds and the sanctuary. We couldn't wait to start working!
We came back to an absolutely delicious lunch, including of course rice and beans, fresh fruit and vegetables etc. The whole staff sat together with volunteers. There were 5 volunteers the four of us and a girl from Scotland who became our very close friend. Chip and Jennifer, who started the whole project were incredibly warm, welcoming and energetic. Work started early the next morning after (the best) banana pancakes, eggs, fruit, coffee and orange juice served by Chip himself.
We cleaned and scrubbed cages, took out and washed all the dirty bowls, swept the stuck leaves of the paths in the sanctuary, prepared food, and learned about the animals. We were all there for them and we fell in love! Cooling off in the gorgeous pool, watching and discovering everything. The fruits, the trees, the flowers, the birds, the iguanas, the spiders and the myriad of butterflies like flowers in the air, constantly around us. Excellent buffet all together and back to work for the afternoon.
We met and became friends with the most amazing, interesting and passionate people. Volunteering at the KSTR table at Manuel Antonio Park was a whole new experience. A totally new way of life. We were free after to explore the park and the beaches. No words!
On the last day Chip insisted we go on a Catamaran for a morning of dolphins, snorkeling, totally unexpected delicious lunch, and slides into the ocean. It was very difficult to leave. Time seems to go at a different pace there. A week feels like two. I think we had about 5 mosquito bites between us and loved the weather, though hot and humid, with beautiful rain late afternoon. We all cannot wait foe our next adventure with you.
Greetings from the rainforest! This week, I've decided to feature toucans! These birds are very common in Costa Rica, and I never tire of seeing them flying in the wild.
There are two species of toucans endemic to Costa Rica: the keel-billed toucan and the chestnut-mandibled toucan. The keel-billed toucan is probably the bird you think of when someone says the word "toucan". Their beaks look painted: a fantastical combination of blue, green, yellow, orange, and red. I haven't seen one in the wild as these birds are found more in the north, but around Quepos, the second species of Costa Rican toucan, the chestnut-mandibled toucan, is very common. These birds are larger, with more subtle beaks than their rainbow-billed relatives. Their beaks are a combination of rich brown, yellow, and bright green, and their vivid coloration is most likely used in courtship or intimidation displays. Toucans eat fruit, eggs, and small animals, and they are surprisingly adept at using their large bills to manipulate and eat food. When they find a fruit, they pluck it from the tree and hold it with the tip of their beak. They toss it in the tip of their beak several times, then toss it backwards down their throat. Due to their large size and dexterity, there are few fruits they can't eat. In fact, I've seen a toucan cut open a mamón (basically a lychee with a much tougher peel) and eat it in as little as ten seconds. I haven't seen one catch a lizard or steal a bird egg yet, although I'm sure that would be interesting to see.
Toucans have a special place in my heart because they were one of the first animals to welcome me to my new home. After I arrived at Kids Saving the Rainforest, I was given a tour of the wildlife sanctuary. During this tour, I heard a bird call that was unlike any I'd heard before. Sonorous calls that sounded halfway between a shriek and a chirp, the sounds emanated from the rainforest, and I couldn't believe it when I heard that these were wild toucans close by. On my first full day of my internship, I woke up early before work and went out onto the balcony to look at the sunrise over the jungle. I heard those same, wild calls again, and to my delight I saw three toucans hopping among the branches in the tall trees around me! Toucans sit in trees and majestically look around them, resplendent beaks and striking black feathers standing out as they soberly scan their surroundings. Suddenly, they burst into a flurry of action, and little legs propel them forward as they daintily hop and flutter between branches. When they find food, usually a piece of fruit hanging from a tree, they pluck it with the tip of their massive beak, toss it up and down a couple of times, then deftly toss it into the back of their throat and swallow. Occasionally, they sharpen their beak on a branch with a surprisingly loud scraping sound. They split the balance between regal beauty and absurdity, their ornate beak sometimes adding majesty to their movements, sometimes adding an air of ridiculousness.
I have worked with one chestnut-mandibled toucan so far at Kids Saving the Rainforest. Her name was Mandy, and she came in before I arrived, brought in by a Tico who found her with a broken leg. Diego, one the veterinarians, showed me videos of her shortly after she arrived. A pitiful sight, she sat on a blanket in the bottom of the cage, her leg too damaged for her to perch on a branch. Due to the extent of her injury, few people had hope when she was brought in that she could someday be released. However, the vet staff decided to give her a chance because she kept trying: fighting and struggling to perch and fly around the cage. Once she had healed enough to perch, they performed physical therapy by making her move around the cage to strengthen her leg. Because her leg healed at an angle, she will never move exactly like she did before. However, when I first saw her after months of healing, I could barely tell that there was anything wrong with her. In fact, by the time I had arrived, the staff at KSTR was already discussing releasing her. They decided to do a soft release, which involves releasing an animal into the wild but still setting out food for them in an accessible location to make it easier for them to get adjusted to the wild. On Sunday night, we caught Mandy from her cage in rehab and moved her to a smaller cage in the nursery to let her become familiar with the area overnight. The next morning, we placed a bowl of food on top of the cage, opened the cage door, then stood back to watch what she would do. After a couple minutes of hesitation, she hopped out of her cage into a tree branch next to her food bowl. A previous intern that was heavily involved in her physical therapy and rehabilitation had written a poem before the end of her internship that she requested to be read when Mandy was released. While Mandy ate a full breakfast from her food bowl, we read the poem aloud to her to commemorate the hard work this intern had invested and to laud Mandy's fighting spirit. Mandy then began hopping and fluttering through the tree branches as toucans do. She attempted to fly out of the tree, but faltered and fell into the branches of the next tree over. Since she had been in cages that limited her flight abilities for several months, she would need practice before being able to fly long distances again. Having a guaranteed food source out for her ensures that until she is capable of flying to fruit trees, she'll be able to eat and stay healthy.
One last thing: I would be remiss if I didn't mention in this creature feature the toucan's striking cousin, the aracari. These little birds look like an child's drawing come to life. They're best described as a smaller, skinnier toucan with a color palette that only draws from black, red, orange, yellow, and white. I could write another whole blog post about them (and very well might in the future!), but for now I'll leave you with a picture of Camelio, the fiery-billed aracari in the sanctuary at KSTR.
Garrigues, Richard and Dean, Robert. The Birds of Costa Rica. San José: Zona Tropical, 2007.
Howe H.F. "Ramphastos swainsonii (Dios Tede, Toucan de Swainson, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan)." In Costa Rican Natural History, edited by Daniel H. Janzen. 603-604. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.
This past week was filled with cleaning, feeding, and lots of hard work, but also lots of interesting work and fun. I was introduced to a couple of projects that the clinic does that I hadn't done on my first week, since I was just getting settled in. One of these projects is training the three white-faced capuchins in the sanctuary. When the vet staff needs to conduct their physical exams, they have to tranquilize the monkeys with a dart gun (believe me, it's not safe for the monkey or for the humans working with them if they're not tranquilized). The monkeys can only be tranquilized in the shift cage, a small cage inside of the large one that can be closed off from the large cage with a small door. However, capuchin monkeys are naturally very smart, so they've realized that if they want to avoid being darted, they just need to avoid the shift cage. One monkey in particular named Hector usually can't be found anywhere near the shift cage if humans are around, which could potentially cause problems when he needs medical attention. Therefore, the vet staff has started training the monkeys in the hopes that they can train Hector and all the monkeys to be more comfortable around the shift cage. Twice a day, we go out to their cage carrying treats (dried mealworms, sunflower seeds, and marshmallows) and sticks with a colorful orb on the end. They are trained to touch the colorful orb when they hear the word "touch", and they are then rewarded with a small treat. When training, we have to be very sensitive of the monkey power dynamics and ensure that no one gets upset. Hugo is the dominant monkey, and she often steals food from Moncho, the baby monkey, and Hector, the nervous monkey who avoids the shift cage. When Hector touches the target and has his reward stolen, he gets upset and screams while loudly shaking the cage. This upsets the other monkeys, and the training session is a lot less productive. Therefore, when training, we always have two trainers: one to occupy Hugo, and one to train Hector and Moncho. So far, training has been going well and all of the monkeys easily touch the orb on command. However, only Hugo and Moncho will go into the shift cage, so we're going to have to keep working with Hector. When training, we sometimes go into the shift cage ourselves to get the capuchins used to different scenarios when training. All the trainers are completely safe inside the shift cage, but the monkeys can stick their hands in through the bars, which they can't do when the trainers are standing outside the large cage. The capuchins, curious as they are, love to reach through the bars and grab trainers' hair! Sometimes they are just trying to smell it, but other times they pull and pull on it. It's hard to remain constantly vigilant while training, and if you get even a little too close to the edge of the cage, you soon will feel a little monkey paw reaching in to wreak havoc.
The other project that I was introduced to is performing necropsies on the dead animals. If any animal dies in rehabilitation or is brought to KSTR dead, the vet staff performs a necropsy to determine the cause of death. This is useful when an animal dies in rehabilitation because it allows us to see if it was disease, trauma, or another cause, and we work our hardest to ensure that similar deaths don't occur in the future. When an animal is brought in dead, the vets still do a necropsy for several reasons. It allows the vets to practice, and gives the vet staff an idea of what is causing deaths of local wildlife, whether they were caught by a predator or if there is a disease going around that we need to be aware of. Last week, we received a jungle chicken that had died, most likely after it was caught by a dog. It was very interesting to watch the vet examine all external and internal organs, and we eventually discovered several tooth puncture wounds in the liver that had caused its demise. This next week, we will also be doing a necropsy on a fledgling smooth-billed ani that died. It was the first intake I'd seen here, and the little bird had been caught by a cat and wounded on its wing. We dressed its wounds and gave it all necessary fluids and medications, but it passed away within a few hours. Necropsies are very interesting, but they are also a reminder that wildlife rehabilitation isn't always about being around cute, cuddly animals. Many of the animals simply don't make it, but accepting this fact lets us move forward and become more effective in the future.
In last week's creature feature, I talked about the releasing of Patty and Speedy, the two-toed sloths. We have been tracking Patty for a week to ensure that she is performing normal sloth behaviors, and for several days she was acting normally: sleeping during the day, climbing up in trees to forage, avoiding humans. However, yesterday she had to be recaptured and brought back to rehabilitation. When she was being observed in the morning, she climbed out onto a branch that was too thin and unstable to support her weight. She fell to the forest floor, then frantically crawled back up a nearby tree. Sloths in the wild are usually able to tell which branches won't support their weight, and they rarely, if ever, fall to the ground. For obvious reasons, we were concerned not only that she had fallen, but also that she might have been injured from her tumble. However, after she climbed up the tree again, she crossed a narrow branch and stranded herself in a tree that was covered in thorns. She was still too high for us to reach, and was now in quite a predicament and extremely stressed. Several staff members of KSTR were watching her, hoping to coax her down so we could recapture her. Dani, the head of the nursery who raised Patty and had been the one to release her, remained in the forest through lunch, trying everything she could to get her down. Eventually, others helped her bend a small tree close enough for Patty to grab, which was then bent closer to the ground so that Patty could be captured. The vet staff conducted a brief physical exam to check for bruises or broken bones, and when we found neither, Patty was placed back into a rehabilitation cage. A more thorough physical will be given on Monday, and we will evaluate why she wasn’t able to avoid unsound branches. The KSTR staff was sorry to see her back in rehabilitation, but we were all glad that she was being tracked so that we could intervene when she was in danger.
As I mentioned, this past week was a lot of hard work but also a lot of fun! Thursday, the rehabilitation interns took a day off to go out on the Catamaran, a medium sized boat that takes groups of people through the waters off of Manuel Antonio National Park for whale watching, snorkeling, and cocktails. The company, Sunset Sails, is owned by a local family who is close friends with the Operational Director of KSTR. We started out from the marina in Quepos, and as the boat pulled away from shore, you could see the tall mountains shrouded in clouds in the distance, the Pacific Ocean stretching off into the horizon, and the tall, green islands of Manuel Antonio National Park surrounding us.
After about 20 minutes, we were able to see a spout of water in the distance, and the long, thin pectoral fin of a humpback whale broke through the surface, looking like it was waving to us. The Catamaran motored over to where the whales had been sighted, and after several minutes of expectant waiting, we saw a big female humpback breach out of the water and crash down into the ocean! Seeing the size and beauty of wild whales for the first time was an experience I'll never forget. Additionally, the people running Sunset Sails were very respectful of the animals, and kept their distance from the breaching whale. They explained to the tour guests that if boats follow the whales too closely, the whales will leave after a couple of days, instead of staying for several weeks and giving birth to their calves in the waters of the national park as they have been doing for hundreds of years. The guides also explained that during the rainy season, the whale watching is fantastic, but the water is a little bit murkier for snorkeling. They stressed that this was all part of the balance of the local ecosystem, that the rainy and dry seasons are both necessary to keep the area as beautiful as it is. It was fantastic to see wildlife tourism done right, not harassing or chasing the animals, and I have a lot of respect for the way that the tour guides sought to teach tourists about the local environment, not trying to force the environment to suit human needs.
By Karma Casey
Greetings Quepolandia readers! Its Karma, the Kids Saving the Rainforest spokes- kid. This month’s article is about a VERY special someone. Have you ever heard of a sloth named Speedy?! (Some of you may know him by his nickname, Jorge.) Well, Speedy is a very unique two toed sloth who has just graduated from Boot Camp, KSTR’s pre-release area where sloths like Speedy learn how to climb trees and forage on their own to get ready for their release back into the wild. After a long journey here at KSTR, Speedy was just triumphantly set free back into his rainforest home! Let me tell you his story.
Speedy was rescued when he was only a few months old. He was tiny, only a kilogram! He had fallen from a tree near the Makanda Hotel in Manuel Antonio. Poor Speedy! The people at the hotel quickly called in the KSTR team. After a checkup by the veterinarian, KSTR attempted to reunite Speedy with his mother.
But sadly, while the hopeful team waited and waited while Speedy hung at a low branch in the tree where the mother was, and called out to his mother, she ignored him. Really mom sloth!? The mother sloth never came down for her son, so the team was forced to bring him back to KSTR. This is quite common in sloths, and one of the reasons why it’s so important to have wildlife rescue efforts like Kids Saving the Rainforest. The KSTR nursery is often busy with orphans, like Speedy, and that’s where he was headed to next. A generous KSTR supporter named Nivea sponsored him, and that’s where he got his name!
The nursery mom Dani, and the helpful interns of Kids Saving the Rainforest, fed Speedy day and night, but that’s definitely not all there is to taking care of these babies. They teach them to climb, teach them which leaves to eat. They even have to teach them how to poop!! The orphans also have medical issues that must be taken care of by the veterinary staff. Caring for these animals is very difficult, and that’s why it should always be done by wildlife professionals like the KSTR team.
One day, when Speedy was climbing around in the small jungle gym outside the nursery at night, (since two-toeds like Speedy are nocturnal) something crazy happened. In the blink of an eye, one of the nursery interns, Emma, heard crazy hisses, and bangs, and other crazy noises coming from outside. She ran from inside the nursery, and she gasped at what she saw. A large male ocelot!! It was trying to attack Speedy from outside the cage!
Emma quickly called on the radio for help. But to everyone’s astonishment nothing could stop Speedy the great and powerful! He had scared away the ocelot with his hissing and swiping of his sharp claws! The ocelot was fierce, but not fierce enough for Speedy!
After that crazy experience, we knew Speedy was ready for any danger the dense jungle could bring him. As time passed, Speedy grew stronger and smarter as the days went on. He graduated from the nursery and moved on to rehab, and Boot Camp. Finally, the Kids Saving the Rainforest team was certain he was ready to be released into that dense jungle he had been preparing for his whole life.
For months in preparation for this day, the KSTR team was researching and having a very special tracking collar made for Speedy. What is this you ask? With this tracking collar on Speedy, we can easily find him and make sure he is doing okay. With this, we can prove that you can release sloths successfully.
You may not know, but many sanctuaries and rescue centers do not believe that sloths can be successfully rehabbed and released. Because of this, many get put into captivity. Here at KSTR, we want to give them the chance to be wild and free! We’ve released sloths successfully before, and now, with these tracking collars, we are going to collect important scientific data to show that yes, orphan sloths like Speedy can be raised by humans in a way that respects their wildness, and they can lead happy, successful lives, wild and free in the rainforest where they belong!
I was privileged to join the dedicated KSTR team as we trekked into the jungle for Speedy’s soft release, the biggest moment in my two years here in Costa Rica as the Kids Saving the Rainforest spokeskid. We were all so ready for Speedy the great and powerful to be finally get his chance to be free. He had been through a lot, and he was ready. The veterinary and nursery team was there, and of course, Dani, who had helped since he was a little baby. He had arrived at KSTR just before I moved to Costa Rica, and now he was finally stepping out into the wide world where he belonged. We watched quietly from a respectful distance as Speedy slowly began to climb into a tree and make his way to freedom.
It took him awhile, as sloths like to take their time about things, but finally Speedy made his way high into a tree! He reached out and climbed into another tree, then stopped when we hung high up in the dark trees above us as night began to fall. We walked out of the jungle, leaving Speedy to his newfound freedom.
Thanks to that cool tracking collar and members of the KSTR team, including a biologist, we’ve been successfully tracking Speedy for awhile now. He is busy exploring his rainforest home, and has been moving through the trees wonderfully, at night, of course, which we know because he is moving from place to place. Everyone here is so thrilled, and I hope you are, too! This is what can happen when wildlife professionals work hard to rehabilitate and release animals who deserve the chance to be wild and free. Send well wishes to our friend Speedy, the great and powerful.
Well, this wraps it up for this article. Remember, if you find injured or orphaned wildlife in the Manuel Antonio or Quepos area, send a WhatsApp us message to 88-ANIMAL. This goes right to the veterinary team, and they can come to the rescue!
Read me next time!!
The Kids Saving the Rainforest staff